If Right to Education (RTE) is to become a reality, the Union and state governments should come up with realistic solutions for children belonging to the disadvantaged group (DG) and economically weaker section (EWS), the Supreme Court said on Friday, October 8. The Supreme Court said that the digital divide, against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, has produced "stark consequences" as the right to education was virtually denied to such children because their families could not afford computer-based equipment and access to the internet for online classes.
The apex court was hearing a plea by Action Committee Unaided Recognised Private Schools in connection with the access to technology by children who are attending online classes and funding needed for the same. The petitioner challenged a September 18, 2020 order of the Delhi High Court directing the private as well as government schools to provide gadgets and an internet package to poor students for online classes.
It directed the Delhi government to develop a plan to help children of the EWS category and added that Union and state governments should jointly work to develop a realistic and lasting solution to ensure children are not denied education due to lack of resources. A bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud said, "It is necessary for Delhi government to come with a plan to uphold the salutary objective of RTE act. The Union government should also coordinate with state governments and share concurrent responsibilities for the purposes of funding." The needs of young children who are the future of the country cannot be ignored, the court said.
The bench emphasised that the digital divide produced stark consequences as schools switched to the digital medium during the pandemic, and that EWS/DG children may have to suffer consequences by not pursuing education, and in the worst case, they may even drop out, due to lack of resources to access online education. It also appreciated the Delhi High Court order directing the Delhi government to provide computer-based equipment and internet package, free of cost to EWS children in private and government schools.
Article 21A of the Constitution has to become a reality and if that is to be so, the needs of children from underprivileged sections to receive adequate access to online education cannot be denied, the bench said. It said that nowadays, schools impart education through online classes, one gets homework online and the children have to upload back the homework but if they are unable to do so, it will be a complete disparity.
The Supreme Court said that the Union government and the states have to come up with realistic and lasting plans to make the Right to Education (RTE) a reality.